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Lost Crops of Africa: Volume I, Grains
in Nepal, the finger millet area is expanding at the rate of 8 percent per year.5 Any international efforts to promote and improve the plant appear to be as beneficial to Asia as to Africa.
This high-methionine grain might also be beneficial for use in weaning foods and in many other cereal products in parts of the world (Latin America and North America, for instance) where it is now largely ignored.
This is a versatile grain that can probably be used in dozens of types of foods, including many that are quite unlike its traditional ones. Its several major uses include the following:
Porridge. The small grains—which are usually brown but occasionally white—are commonly boiled into a thick porridge.
Bread. Some finger millet is ground into flour and used for bread and various other baked products. All are relished for their flavor and aroma.
Malt. Malted finger millet (the sprouted seeds) is produced as a food in a few places. It is nutritious, easily digested, and is recommended particularly for infants and the elderly.
Beverages. Much finger millet in Africa is used to make beer. Its amylase enzymes readily convert starch to sugar. Indeed, finger millet has much more of this "saccharifying" power than does sorghum or maize; only barley, the world's premier beer grain, surpasses it. In Ethiopia, finger millet is also used to make arake, a powerful distilled liquor.
Fodder. Finger millet straw makes good fodder—better than that from pearl millet, wheat, or sorghum. It contains up to 61 percent total digestible nutrients.
Popped Products. Finger millet can be popped. It is widely enjoyed in this tasty form in India (see page 298).
Most of the increase occurred between 1955 and 1975 and resulted from genetic improvement of India's traditional landraces. Subsequent increases were due to crosses between those and new strains introduced from Africa.
In Nepal the crop has a special niche: during monsoon rains, it continues growing well, even when the soil is almost waterlogged and where the nutrients have been leached out by the daily downpours.